Editor’s comment: At last, abuse survivors are being heard

Members and supporters of Islington Survivors' Network outside Islington Town Hall ahead of the meet

Members and supporters of Islington Survivors' Network outside Islington Town Hall ahead of the meeting to order a new inquiry into the kids' home abuse scandal. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

I sat in the town hall on Thursday with the Islington Survivors Network. I heard first-hand the most awful testimonies of rape, abuse and neglect directed at young children.

The stories we have been telling about what went on in Islington’s kids’ homes between (at least) the 1970s and 1990s are harrowing enough when printed on a page. But listening to these brave people address in person the authority that failed them was so powerful – and deeply disturbing.

Richard Watts, who was a child himself halfway across the country when the scandal broke, faced an impossible task. Nothing he could have said in that room would have undone the horrors these people went through. And for his part I believe he seemed genuinely appalled by what he was hearing, and honestly keen to make amends. That is something that must be done through actions rather than words, but it was right he apologised individually to every survivor who spoke. There is a lot further to go, but this meeting was undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

I cannot imagine the emotional journey the survivors walked to get to this point. To suffer like they did and then confront the town hall in person and tell those stories out loud took incredible guts. They spoke articulately and with enormous strength.

But it wasn’t always so. Whether they were wilfully ignored, not believed, or simply never given the chance to speak out – and from what we’ve heard it was generally all three – these people were silenced by Islington for too long. And as harrowing as it is to hear what they have to say, it is also an honour, and a reminder of what a force the survivors now are.

After Thursday’s meeting I fully believe Liz Davies when she says the network will stop at nothing to get justice. She and they have my full support.